Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

Priest of Bones

Peter McLean

Army priest Tomas Piety finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue. He must fight shadowy foreign infiltrators once again, and it becomes clear that war is just the beginning.

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"The first in an unmissable series, Priest of Bones is a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy. Mashing together soldiers, gangsters, magic and war into a heady mix that is a hulking big brother to The Lies of Locke Lamora."--Anna Stephens, author of Godblind

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg--his people--have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas's old life, it becomes clear:

The war is only just beginning.

Advance Galley Reviews

I absolutely loved this book. This was one of those books that I was able to lose myself in for just a little while. This book first fell on my radar when it was listed on First to Read. I signed up for a copy but let it expire before I got around to reading it. As luck would have it, my local library had a copy and I was able to give it a try. Let me tell you, I should have read this book as soon as I had a chance because it was fabulous! This was a fantasy that I found very easy to slip into its world. It is a rather dark story and you can expect to see a fair amount of blood and violence. I was hooked by this story pretty much right away. The story follows Tomas Piety who happens to be an army priest. The war is over and his group of soldiers that have looked to him for leadership still wish to follow his lead. The group goes back to his home known as the Stink where Tomas plans to put everyone to work in his businesses. When he arrives home, he finds that all of his businesses have been taken over by others and he will have to fight to get them back. I liked Tomas right away and the more I read, the more I liked him. When necessary, he delivers swift justice but overall he is a fair leader. He is incredibly smart and is a natural leader that seems to know exactly which job would be the right fit for all of his men. He inspires complete loyalty from his men which he returns in full. Tomas is put in a position where he not only needs to reclaim his territory but must also work with a powerful group to help prevent another war. It is a delicate balancing act that he is able to maneuver with finesse. I thought this book was really exciting. There is plenty of action to keep the pages turning but I found the strategizing to be equally entertaining. The entire book was really well paced. The characters were very well developed and I not only liked Tomas but also really grew to care for the other members of his crew. There were a few magical elements that I found really well done as well. I would highly recommend this book to fans of darker fantasies. I was totally drawn into this wonderful story that I found almost impossible to set aside. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series! I received a digital review copy of this book from Penguin Publishing Group via First to Read and borrowed a print copy of the book from my local library.

A pretty interesting blend of genres that I didn't expect I'd like. I'll definitely be reading more from this author as I found this book to be well written and interesting. 4.5 stars.

By crikey I enjoyed this book! It tells the story of Tomas Piety, a priest returning to his home after a war and re-establishing himself in the town he left behind. Some have remarked that there are shades of the Godfather here, and I get that, but for me the closest comparison I could make would be the excellent Peaky Blinders. The characters in this book are not good men, but they are wonderfully compelling and the plot moves at a pace that makes it impossible to put down. What I really loved was the interplay between Thomas, Bloody Anne, and the other members of his crew and the depth of characterisation on show here is particularly impressive, given that there are quite a few characters and each is given at least some depth. The world is dark and gritty but feels very authentic and wholly believable. Yes, this is a fantasy, but there are only small touches of 'magic' with the majority of action very much ground in the horrible things people will do to each other. All in all, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read and a fabulous introduction to what I hope will become a truly great series.

I wouldn't have thought all these genres would work well together, but McLean does a great job of making it work. I'm excited to read the next in the series!

When I pick up this story, I thought it would be some fantasy with ghosts and magic and swords and dragons. Some of that is there, no dragons, but it is much more than a fantasy. A man has made himself a crimeboss and protector to the poor people who live in his territory. Of course, he charges for that protection, but the people who live under his rule feel he has more invested in their well-being than the city government does, so they don't mind paying him. Then he gets drafted and goes to war. When he returns, he finds foreigners have taken over his businesses and abandoned his streets. This book is book one of a trilogy. It sets up the epic adventure to come, which is more political than adventure. There is plenty of fighting as our crimeboss recovers his businesses and streets. There is also plenty of business philosophy, more than you would expect, as he rebuilds his holdings. The foreign invaders, ah, they must be the villains of the piece. They must be defeated. Will that happen? Will our crimeboss get to keep his small world after working in a bigger one?Questions to be answered in later volumes. I can't wait for book 2. I read my copy for this review from First to Read.

A well written and fun book. I guess it's a fantasy, but there wasn't a lot of fantastic elements to it. Sure, it's set in a world of fictional lands, and there are elements of the fantastic, but they few and far between. Once I stopped expecting it to get more fantastic I enjoyed it more, but feel it was miscategorized in that sense. Definitely has some unsubtle social commentary which is fine by me but may put off other readers. Curious to see where the series goes, but not ready to preorder the next one immediately yet either

Hmmm. This is a tricky book to review. On the one hand, I loved that this was a book geared toward mystery, family politics, and sociopolitical commentary. I'm always happy to find meat in genre books--not saying that they're lacking, but sometimes they're light on the good stuff and heavy on the action, you know? This book was definitely interesting in that regard. But on the other's not as fantastic as I'd like. Is it grimdark? Sure. But if you're expecting a fantasy novel in the vein of George R.R. Martin or Brandon Sanderson, that's not what this is. And that's fine! But it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The biggest issue plaguing this book is just general inconsistency. When it's great, it's great! But it waxes and wanes on that front. Take the worldbuilding, for example. When it's on, it's atmospheric and gritty and wonderful, but it gets spotty at times when the more thematic issues start creeping in. The same goes for the characters, unfortunately. Certain characters, like Tomas Piety, are vibrant and rich! But as is the case with a lot of books heavy on mystery, a lot of the secondary characters feel like deus ex machina rather than actual people. I think some of these issues come from this being the first book in a series, and a lot of work has to be done to set the stage. But I'd like to see the next books more tightly edited for consistency. I think that would take what was a fine read and make it an excellent one.

Priest of Bones is the first book in a new dark fantasy series, that is heavy on the socio-political and the thriller and light on the fantasy. This is very much a crime family story and so far outside of my normal comfort zone, but I love intrigue and cunning characters so I took the chance. Priest of Bones focuses on Tomas Piety a conscripted army priest as he returns back home and works to reclaim the city he used to run from the shadows. He also returns home with a company of soldiers who are quickly pulled into the family as he works to rebuild his small empire. While I enjoyed the story overall, there were a few things that kept me at arm’s length at all times. The world building is both fantastic and disappointing at the same time. I feel like I could sketch out a map of Ellinburg from memory, the city is vibrant in its griminess. However, the world as a whole feels like a mystery. I see the after effects of the war that was raging prior to the start of the book, we are given small glimpses of the horrors of Abingon…but I don’t understand it. There is a mysterious and powerful queen, but not much is mentioned about her or her reign other than in the context of spies and war. The fantasy element, other than the setting, is very slight but incredibly compelling as it is such a rare topic in the book. The style, however, was really engrossing and made it super easy to dive into, and before I knew it the ages were flying by. That same issues also plagued the characters as well. We get to see and understand Tomas Piety, and there is a lot of insight on his brother as well. Both are really interesting, but not particularly likable. I loved Tomas’ dual nature of both being a crime boss with a very dark side but also a priest who listens to the confessions of those around him. It’s such a cool idea, and I think it’s really neat hook. I also liked Bloody Anne, Tomas’ right hand, who is a fierce woman with some surprising depth. But as I said, it had the same issue of feeling somewhat distant at times and I just didn’t find myself too engaged with the characters. There is also the matter of the nicknames which drove me crazy. It’s the one thing in the whole ‘crime family’ trope that just drives me batty, it’s so cheesy and I do get that it was a thing that some crime families actually did…but again…cheesy. We get such gems as Will the Woman, Black Billy, Billy the Boy, and Bloody Anne. For the most part, people are referred to as just the name, but then randomly someone will actually hold a conversation and refer to that person, to their face, by their moniker and it just felt so stiff and awkward. I also felt that other than Anne, Tomas, and Jocian we don’t get to know any of the other characters enough to truly have them feel fleshed out. It is, however, a really interesting group of people with a ton of rough and tumble personalities and more than a few mysteries surrounding them. Overall I enjoyed Priest of Bones, and despite some issues connecting with the story, I found it be a fun read. I’m definitely curious to see what the sequel will throw our way. I received a complimentary copy for review purposes, all opinions are my own.

This isn’t The type of book that I usually read but I thought I would give it a try. Was struck by the amount of violence but the author held my interest with an interesting plot line and well written characters. While I didn’t necessarily care about any of the characters I was definitely interested in learning more about them. I was able to visualize the carnage of war that the characters had recently experienced and the home they return to was deftly described. The short chapters made for a quick read and I could easily see this become a cable series.

I want more Billy the Boy and Cutter! The part of me that enjoys reading liked this book. The plot was good and most of the characters interesting or intriguing. The part of me that is judgy got really annoyed with all the, "I cant let this pass," like dang we get it, you big and bad. Also, Ailsa didnt do it for me, a lot of things with her were just odd, though I enjoyed the wedding. I do think this is a good book if you like primitive war and violence.

Priest of Bones was written with stark prose and story telling. It really evoked a sense of war, even though it takes place after a war. The content was harsh with lots of violence. Honestly, I can really visualize the setting- it would be a great screenplay. I tend towards books with more emotional content and relationships. This was not that book. I did end up skimming towards the end. It was a well-told story, just not the right fit for me.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. Gangsters and magic! This book sounded amazing. Tomas Piety isn't a good guy which made it interesting reading the story from his perspective. The darkness and violence didn't bother me, but the sexual violence was a bit much.

I'll be honest, the "I'm a bad guy but I still kill rapists" cliched introduction made me cringe. The book improves after that, thankfully. I liked the characters, especially Bloody Anne and Billy the Boy, and I enjoyed reading Tomas' struggle to regain his place in the world (even if he did win a little more than I'd have expected). The city also felt real, from the smells and the industry and the gang zones and class separation. Those things said... That was a very slow introduction. The book didn't feel like it had made any progress, in characters or plot, through the first half of the novel. The short chapters helped, but it still felt like a drag. The ending, cool scene that it was, also robbed Tomas of agency. And I didn't feel any fear of this new force threatening to invade. We hardly see them, so Tomas' actions where they're involved seem more like "Fear of history repeating itself" instead of actual fear. All in all, I won't be rushing out for book two, even with the cliffhanger ending.

This book didn't really appeal to me. From the start, it was slow. I don't like politics as much so this book is the reason why I didn't like it that much.

This is a dark adult fantasy with a crime boss, Queen's (wo)men, and just a touch of magic. Written like it is actually written by Tomas Piety, the main character, you get a first person view from him. Piety and his crew are back from the war that they won, but it doesn't feel like it. His businesses (he is a crime boss) have been taken over by some shadowy foreigners. We follow as he puts together his crew again and take back what was his. Then he is approached by a Queen's man that tells him these shadowy foreigners are worse than expected and if they are able to keep the city, the war Piety just fought in will be back at home and they will lose. This is a dark book with violence, drinking and no small amount of PTSD. But it shows that PTSD can be different for every character and does a good job of portraying it. The characters are interesting and you want to keep learning more about the world. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

This is a very dark and grim AND bloody story. It wasn't what I usually read but it didn't turn me away with how brutal it was. I also know this is a time and place I would not like to live. Tomas and his brother Jochan Piety come back to their home and all their property has been taken. So they kill to take back what was theirs and Tomas becomes the crime boss he once was before the war. They have to go in hard and fast with the blades swinging. Tomas' second in command isn't called Bloody Anne for nothing. This is well written and the reader gets to know the characters. Because it was so bloody, I didn't have too much sympathy for any of the characters and didn't care if any of them lived. But if one likes this kind of story, then they will enjoy it.

This was super dark and violent. There was some witty banter but not nearly enough to balance out just how chalk full of attempted sexual violence and actual sexual violence this story has. I was really looking forward to this one but I think it just ended up not being what I had anticipated.

This was way too grimdark for me. The author seems to want to be as crude, profane and disgusting as possible. The near rape on page 2 set things off to a great start. I abandoned the book soon after that. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Tomas Piety is a priest. He comes back home from war hoping to find everything as he left behind. Before he was a priest in the army, Thomas was a "business man" aka gangster. When he sees his empire has been taken over he decides to take back what is his with the help of sergeant Bloody Anne and brother. This book is like the gangs of new york but with magical elements. This book has action and magic! two things I love.

It took me a little while to get into this one, but once I got into it a bit more I enjoyed the story. I like the characters Tomas Piety, Bloody Anne and, actually, Ailsa. I will be waiting for the next book eagerly. The story is a bit dark, which isn't unusual when dealing with war, and later, gangsters (also known as businessmen.) There seems to be a lot of politics going on below the surface, much more than is explained. Overall, a good story.

While I was excited to get this book, alas, like many other reviewers, my copy did NOT work. It would not go past the copyright page, even though the file indicated it had all the pages.

“Priest of Bones” is a fantasy gangster book that captivates the reader from the very first lines. Tomas Piety is returning back to Ellinburg after almost three years, during which he has been fighting a war that wasn’t his to fight. Even though, he had to fight and get back home safe, to return to his people after his conscription had ended. Tomas may have become a priest in the army when their own priest was lost in battle, but before the war, he was a businessman, leading the Pious Men. Upon his return, he finds the Stink poor as hell and his businesses overtaken. His aunt is nowhere to be found. Tomas has to bring his crew together and get his businesses back. He will then be able to look after the people in his streets, his people. What has happened in Ellinburg is bigger than him, bigger than anything he could imagine. Strange, foreign people have taken over the city while he and the other bosses were away at the war. And for that, he had to work for the Queen’s Men, no matter he liked it or not. When Queen’s Men approached you, you had no other option but to do as they say. The book is narrated in first person, by Thomas himself. It is as if he is writing his memoirs and we only read his side of the story. Even so, this does not seem to be inadequate as we do get a lot of the action, without missing much. This Thomas Piety, sounds a lot like Thomas Shelby from Peacky Blinders. He is owning his streets and he is protecting them as well. He doesn’t allow mistreats, he doesn’t approve of hurting women, child abuse and drug trade. He is helping the poor and all people in his streets by giving them a job in one of his businesses or helping them restore their own. He earns his people respect. Apart from Thomas, their is a great deal of other characters in the book, like Bloody Ann, who is second in command and his brother Jochan who has battle syndrome, but he could take down a small army only he and two or three more men. Thomas takes advantage of that as he always sends the right man for the right job. So step by step, we follow the story as he takes back his businesses. The fantasy in the book comes with a magical twist. Those strangers are using magicians, respectable people with great power. Not everyone though likes them. Thomas needs his one magician if he wants to win this war, and he finds him. Because this is another was to be fought, and he needs every mean to win it!

I would have liked a little more character background but other than that a really really good start to a series. I will continue to read them all since it had me hooked pretty quickly. Definitely recommend it to those like fantasy a little on the dark side.

When Thomas Piety returns from war he brings eith him a crew of men and returns to find all that he had worked so hard to gain was gone. What follows is a story of his attempts to save himself and his fellow companions from a hard life in a war torn town

Unfortunately, I have been unable to download a readable copy of Priest of Bones. Thus, I am unable to review it at this time.

Unfortunately, due to unresponsiveness on behalf of both my ereader app and First to Read regarding the issues with the file for Priest of Bones I received that will not progress beyond the copyright page, I cannot provide a review for this title, though I had very much wanted to.

I love political intrigue and good world-building, and Priest of Bones definitely has it, but I can't get excited about this. War is hell and McLean does a great job of showing the aftermath, a topic few authors address. How many fantasy books end with, "We won the war and lived happily ever after"? People are broke, dirty, no longer taken care of by the government, just dismissed and told to go home. And home is not what it once was. Of course, when Tomas left, he left a power vacuum and it's not surprising that others moved in on his town. There are class differences, characters with strong moral codes, and a complicated plot that is going to explode in the next book, but the writing style doesn't fully pull me in.

I'm always a bit skeptic going into books that somehow revolve around the church, secret religious societies, etc.... But oh my God! I Loved this book!! The intrigue, the plot twists, the mystery and adventure.... fantastic! I cannot wait for the second book in this series to come out!

4.5 out of 5 stars The Priest of Bones is the first novel of a grim dark fantasy trilogy reminiscent of The Godfather smashed with Peaky Blinders. It is hard to put down and sometimes hard to read, but it’s dark fantasy at it’s best. The Priest of Bones is a story of a soldier returning from war to find his business gone and trying to deal with the emotional and economic ramifications of a prolonged and bloody conflict. It is told in stream of consciousness and very well done. It reminds me of the books which were published after WWI - stream of consciousness, war ravages, disconnect from society, PTSD, etc. Think of Ulysses and The Sound and the Fury. The book has extensive cast - but it somehow makes it work without overwhelming the reader. I will warn the readers- if you do not like violence, rape and murder - stay away from this book. If you however, enjoyed books by Mark Lawrence, Anna Stephens and Ed McDonald then this is a new series for you.

Very dark with minimal fantasy elements. This book reads like it should be a tv series - lots of jumps in time where there would be a visual montage of movement/a week before the next episode. I found it hard to keep track of all of the characters since there were so many and they had minimal detail about them. It's reminiscent of the Locke Lamora series in that the criminals are clever and are heroes because the other people are worse. However, the world was less clearly built and I didn't care as much for the characters.

Priest of Bones was a dark fantasy with lots of action. If you like your swords and sorcery with mostly swords, this might be the book for you. The lead character, Tomas Piety, was not someone I particularly cared for, but the book made it clear that his sort of "mob rule" was marginally better than the alternatives in a corrupt and gang-run feudal town. There were several characters, some of which I liked, though the main ones were all pretty damaged and hard to really connect with. There were a few strong female characters, and I suspect there is more story to them, and in the end it was clear that one of them was really the main player in the book.There was action from beginning to end, and it did set you up nicely for a next book, which is a plus if you like series. Overall, it was worth reading. It was not an enjoyable escape fantasy, but if you don't mind your fantasy gritty and with a high body count, this will keep your attention.

I'm so glad I took a chance on this one because it was a fast paced and exciting read. PRIEST OF BONES follows Tomas Piety and his gang of Pious Men as they work to reclaim what was stolen from him when he was off fighting the Queen's war. He calls himself a "businessman", but he and his gang are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their businesses and the people of his hometown, Ellingberg. I have never seen Peaky Blinders which it has gotten some comparison towards, but I am a big fan of more modern gangster dramas like The Godfather and The Sopranos. I flew through this book and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Tomas Piety is an excellent main character. We get to see and experience everything through his eyes and while he may be a violent criminal, he only wants the best for his people. Tomas Piety cares about protecting the innocent and values the opinion of women, which is rare in those days. The fight scenes are riveting. Sword fights, explosions, and sneak attacks kept me hooked. Piety is incredibly loyal and hardworking and doesn't just sit back while others fight his fights. Religion is also explored as Tomas Piety is an army priest. There are a ton of secondary characters, but they are all so distinctive it doesn't take too long to tell them apart. Still, since the story is through Piety's eyes we only know what he sees and hears, so many of the characters are still a bit mysterious. I especially liked the character of Bloody Anne, his second. Bloody Anne is one of the few other characters who has a fairly well developed back story and after reading about what she has been through, it made me admire her even more. Character development is so important and McLean does a great job of really drawing the reader in to Piety's head. In that sense, we are able to witness everything as he does. And he certainly witnesses some dark things. PRIEST OF BONES is not light on the violence and the Pious Men are constantly fighting to protect what is theirs. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the inclusion of magic. It was very subtle, but magicians do play a role and I only wish there was more time in this book to delve into that even deeper. Hopefully the rest of the series will explore this further. There is so much to this world that I am curious about. As a whole this was an incredibly well written and engaging read. I highly recommend it!

This book is wonderful. I loved it so much more than I thought I would. It was dark and suspenseful. With so much intrigue, I couldn’t put it down. I definitely look forward to reading the next book in the series when it comes out!

Apparently I didn't catch the "grimdark" descriptor in the blurb (I see it now, and after starting to read, COMPLETELY understand what it means in this context). I was highly intrigued by the concept, but the dark was a little too grim for me and I couldn't get past that enough to get into the story... This one was not for me.

I am sorry, but due to problems with my e-reader, I was unable to read this book. Thanks for the opportunity.

Great read; I couldn't put it down, and I'd pre-order the sequel right this moment if I could. If you enjoyed the Locke Lamora series or the Shadow Campaigns series as much as I did, this one will be right up your alley. It's got action, intrigue, and steadily escalating stakes, and it's got a believable cast of rough-around-the-edges cast of characters (I can't say that Tomas Piety is likable, exactly, but it's hard not to sympathize with him and root for him). McLean has written an excellent depiction of the bond among a group of soldiers, their individual and collective struggles with the trauma of their experiences, and their response to finding the world they left behind in an even bigger mess than it had been before. As a word of warning, the book contains potentially traumatic themes relating to child abuse, particularly toward the final quarter of the story, but McLean avoids graphic detail and handles the topic with surprising compassion for a world as dark as the one he's built in Ellinburg.

The one thing I'll say about this book is I want the second book in the series NOW!

I tend to enjoy dark fantasy books, so I'm a little surprised that I didn't like this one more. The characters in this book, particularly the narrator Tomas Piety, return from war to find their home stolen from them and the city of Ellinburg on the verge of disaster. There is a lot to like in this book: the characters are interesting, the setting is well developed, the narration has a strong voice, and it gives a good portrayal of the aftereffects of war. Piety's struggle with his place in the city after the war progresses over the course of the book. Bits of his past, and those around him, come out as the story goes on as well. While I like what McLean did with the character of Piety, I didn't find the character himself especially likeable. It's not just the harshness that seems to have come from his experiences at war. There are moments presented that are meant to soften that to a degree. He seemed to be lacking some of the charisma and compassion that characters in similar book seem to possess. This might just be a personal preference. It is nice to have a change of pace with this character, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I would definitely read the second book to see how the story continues and give Piety a second chance.

Crime boss, soldier, and army priest Tomas Piety returns to the streets of Ellinburg with his loyal Pious Men after three hard years of battle. Initially, I noted a lot of similarities in point of view (first person), plot (hero is beholden to a secret but powerful entity), and characters (diverse band of battle-worn toughs led by gritty, witty boss whose right-hand woman is super-loyal, steely, and lethal) between this and the Raven's Mark series by Ed McDonald. But I found this first book in Peter McLean's new series to be more nuanced, its diverse and inclusive cast of characters more fleshed out. This is a classic low fantasy, rife with knives, fire, and brutality. There's magic, too, but it operates far from the focus of this book, which is written in a tone reminiscent of epic poetry, with the heroes (or anti-heroes) returning from war to a home changed. I highly recommend this first book in The War for the Rose Throne series, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

I really enjoyed this book. I have never read anything by this author previously but this book may cause me to go back and read his other books. The characters were really well written here, and as you read the book you get to understand that Tomas is really a caring person even though he used to, and may once again run a crime empire. I really didn't want to put this book down and was really disappointed when I came to the end. The only light to that is that with the way the book ended there should be a sequel coming. I highly recommend this book!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get this book to open on my Kindle. The title and copyright pages would open, but the file would close when I tried to progress. I tried restarting my Kindle with no luck. Next time, I guess.


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